SCOTLAND face the toughest possible start to their TikTok Women’s Six Nations campaign when they take on England tomorrow, and injury has robbed them of some of their most experienced players for the match against a team who beat them 57-5 last year. However, head coach Bryan Easson believes that the time is right to give some younger players their chance, and is particularly excited about the one uncapped member of his starting line-up – 19-year-old Watsonians winger Francesca McGhie.

“She’s fearless and has got real pace,” Easson said yesterday after announcing his team. “She scored five tries for the Thistles in the Celtic Challenge. She’s really dangerous – give her a little bit of space and she will show what she’s all about. Fran is quite a chilled individual. She’s a really good person to have around the group. She doesn’t look as if it’s her first cap – she really is buying into the atmosphere within the group.”

Left-winger McGhie is part of a three-quarter line that only has 11 caps between them, with Coreen Grant making her first start on the right wing. Centre Beth Blacklock is the only uncapped player to be named on the bench, but at 25 the former England ‘A’ cap has considerable experience at the highest level of the club game.

“We’re really excited to play against the best team in the world at a sold-out stadium in Newcastle,” Easson added. “It has been really good to integrate the group back together over the last four weeks and to start kicking on for this TikTok Six Nations. We’ve got a lot of new young faces and a lot of experience still in here, and a squad who are really excited to get going.”

There is indeed a lot of experience in the squad, with Chloe Rollie and Lana Skeldon both having played in more than 50 Tests, while Helen Nelson, Louise McMillan and captain Rachel Malcolm have also been regulars in recent seasons. But there is also a considerable amount of experience missing.

In the back division alone, Hannah Smith and Megan Gaffney both retired after last year’s World Cup, Rhona Lloyd, Lisa Thomson and Shona Campbell are all away with the GB Sevens squad, and Jenny Maxwell is still making her way back from injury. Campbell may only be 21 and have nine caps, but after making her debut in 2021 quickly cemented her place in the team.

In the pack, Molly Wright, Lisa Cockburn, Jade Konkel-Roberts, Sarah Bonar and Emma Wassell are all injured. Four of them (Cockburn being the exception) played in Scotland’s last game, the 57-0 defeat by New Zealand, as did the sevens trio and Smith. Some of those injured players are all but certain to be passed fit to take part in the later stages of the Championship.

England will be without injured lock Rosie Galligan for the entire tournament, while injury has also ruled scrum-half Natasha Hunt out of the Scotland game. But the Red Roses still have immense resources to call on, and will be particularly motivated for this game as it is captain Sarah Hunter’s last appearance before she retires – and because it is their first match since a run of 29 consecutive victories was brought to an end by New Zealand in the World Cup final.

It will be the third year running that Scotland and England have met in the opening round. Things will be different next year, however: the fixtures announced yesterday see the Scots travel to Wales first up.